4 weeks and a day

I don't know if it was the full moon this week or what, but it seems like we went from 0 to 60 in about 3 days. The onslaught of news coming out of the Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh, Sam McGuffie, ND, and the endless reciprocation of polls and pre-season rags has kept my head spinning.

Lets start with the pre-season coaches poll:

1. USC (45) 0-0 1,481
2. LSU (4) 0-0 1,372
3. Florida (9) 0-0 1,278
4. Texas 0-0 1,231
5. Michigan (2) 0-0 1,218
6. West Virginia 0-0 1,205
7. Wisconsin 0-0 1,114
8. Oklahoma 0-0 1,026
9. Virginia Tech 0-0 1,005
10. Ohio State 0-0 919

Okay, I can live with that. USC is the team to envy, as usual. LSU I can handle. Florida at 3 makes sense being the defending champs, usually not being in the top 5 as defenders is a rarity. Texas could easily replace LSU or Florida, me thinks. And Michigan at 5 is also pretty good considering the meltdown last year. All in all, no big surprises in the top 5.

I really don't see any of 7-10 being in the top 10 at the end of the season. Of course I didn't include West Virginia in that prediction. And the reason I didn't is because I see them playing someone for the title in New Orleans come January. Who? You'll just have to wait my legion of loyal readers.

Not surprisingly, the Big Ten coaches picked Michigan to win the Big Ten this year. This annual right of passage for the coaches is probably an exercise in futility. But its done anyway. And if they're going to pick someone, by all means pick the boys in blue. The last time we were hand-picked by the coaches to take the conference was in 2004, when we did, and made it to the Rose Bowl. We won't discuss the outcome of that game though.

Moving on. Jim Harbaugh. He was a good chap while he played here. Did well in the NFL. Made a name for himself I guess. Got some well deserved attention when he made the leap to head coach at Stanford. But then he had to open his mouth. His comments, be they true or not...were simply uncalled for. Oh man, its times like these that I wish Bo were still around. He'd call Jim up and have him in tears within 5 minutes.

But its fitting that it was the most Michigan of all Michigan men who called him out. Mike Hart gave Jim Harbaugh the verbal bashing he so righteously deserved. I can go on record by saying that Mike Hart is maybe the greatest thing to happen to Michigan football since Bo stepped off the field in 1989. There have been many before him, but none like him. He is the perfect embodiment of character and charisma.

I have a small Mike Hart story that I think fits well into this conversation.

It was the eve of the Michigan-Notre Dame game in 2005. I was with my girlfriend (now my wife) and we were at one of the local downtown AA eateries...Mongolian BBQ I think. And I was standing in line for a table and this middle aged woman who was totally decked out in Michigan garb bumped into me. Of course it wasn't a big deal, the joint was packed and I was probably not paying attention to anyone around me. So I looked over and said that I was sorry, as did she. After a minute of standing in line being bored, I asked the most obvious question you could ask someone looking like that in Ann Arbor on a Friday night in September: "So, going to the game tomorrow?"

She replied with an obvious, "Of course.", which seemed to me to be an odd way to answer, but in retrospect, made perfect sense.

"Why's that?", I said.
"My son is playing in the game".

Not even close to wearing anything with a clover on it, I safely assumed she was referring to a Michigan player.

"Who is your son?"
"Mike Hart."

After I safely re-arranged the tongue I my mouth, I replied with a "Oh my God your Mike Hart's mom!?"

What was very strange to me at the time was the fact that she assumed I had no idea who Mike Hart was. I'm pretty sure I was wearing a Michigan hat...so it couldn't have been that confusing.

But after watching Mike conduct himself in interviews, off the field, etc...I can see exactly where he gets his persona. His unassuming attitude towards himself was directly reflected in his mother's way of talking about him.

I probably spent the next 5 minutes talking with her about Mike and his little brother. She and Mike's Dad split time between going to Mike's Michigan games, and his little brother's high school games. I don't remember his brothers name, or what year he was in HS, but I can safely assume that Lloyd Carr knows his name, and exactly what his college prospects are.

Speaking of Notre Dame...you can pencil them into you hatred list for the next 25 years. Yes, in a stunningly unimpressive move, we now play the Irish every year until 2031. How many head coaches will Notre Dame have in the next 25 years? What will the stadium capacity be at the Big House for that 2031 Notre Dame match up? I respect ND...but you gotta mix it up a little bit year to year. This damn contract will last until I am 51! Why Bill Martin....WHY????

And now to end on a high note. If you're anything like me and you have been dreading the day Mike Hart leaves Ann Arbor, fret no more.

Enter: Sam McGuffie. For all the nay-sayers and future opponents out there, a little taste of what to expect:

You might be saying to yourself that this is just a kid in high school who has some good runs...yeah, but this is Texas high school football that he's playing. These are some of the best and most talented kids around. Any kid who can run like this against opponents like that...makes my Michigan heart feel warm all over. In case you haven't been noticing, Michigan has been putting together a stellar 2008 recruiting class. There are some holes to fill on defense, but so far we've reeled in I think 8 or 9 four-star players so far. And with the McGuffie cherry on top...this could be Lloyd's final and best recruiting class of all time.

Just for fun:

Thoughts of a Michgan Football fan on July 20th

Summer. Its great, especially when you get days like this when the Michigan humidity evaporates and you actually get a chance to experience being outside without sweating right away. I really enjoy living in this state when the weather cooperates like it is this weekend. Turn off the air conditioners and spend some QT outside.

The problem of course is that 3 days ago, I purchased a copy of NCAA Football 08 for my aging, but still worthy Xbox. While at first blush, it doesn't seem to be too far a cry from the 06 version, which was adorned by Michigan Heisman trophy winner Desmond Howard, after playing the game a little bit, I am now officially hooked. And with my better half gone for the weekend, there is nothing standing in the way of me playing as much of this game as possible.

Another topic that I have hinted towards discussing was the much-debated Big Ten Network. If you don't know about it yet, don't bother...it won't be around long enough. But if you're a Michigan fan, or any other Big 10 school for that matter, and you just realized that you are not going to watch at least 2 games on TV this year because your cable service has decided not to carry the network, then join me in my ever-growing frustration with this network.

There is simply no reason why a state-funded school such as Michigan or Michigan State should not have every football or basketball game televised at least within the state in which its tax-payers reside. But don't immediately blame the Big Ten Network, this was a small problem last season when the Michigan-Ball State game was televised on ESPNU. I believe there was an Ohio State game that was broadcast on the U network as well which stirred a lot of fans the wrong way. Lets face it, these are big schools with a huge following. Not allowing fans at least a reasonable way to watch the games is simply just wrong. Only a small handful of relevant cable providers are going to carry the network, and its not the cable providers that 90% of Michigan residents have.

But no matter how much shmucks like me write or complain about it, there's simply nothing we can do. But I can guarantee that unless the network can wrangle in some serious cable providers before or just after the football season starts, its going to be a long season for them...and for us.

Okay, enough about this Big Ten Network nonsense. Lets talk football. Hot off the press: Regents approved a new indoor football practice facility.

From the description on mgoblue.com, it will reflect the same architectural style as that of Yost and the intermural building, which looks pretty obvious from the picture. And this new structure will reside on State Street just south of Yost next to Schembechler Hall. But the image shown makes it look like it will reside south of Schembechler Hall where the outdoor practice fields are now. Maybe its just me, but the athletic campus feels a little cramped as it is. Why wouldn't it make more sense to knock down the existing indoor facility and build this new one? Am I crazy?

Anyway, moving on. The 2008 recruiting class is shaping up very, very nicely. 4-star tight end recruit Kevin Kroger and the transfer of QB Steven Threet are both great additions to the offense. Kroger, a fellow Toledo native, is one just three 4-star recruits leaving Ohio for the greener fake grass of Michigan Stadium for 2008. And actually, he's one of 6 great players from Ohio not going to THE Ohio State University. Is captain teflon starting to loose the grip on his home state's talent?

I'm sure there's more to discuss but this post is getting exeadingly lengthy, and frankly I'm tired. Have a great weekend everyone. Go Blue!

Week 3: Notre Dame

When: September 15th, 3:30PM
Where: Ann Arbor, MI

Overview: If this game goes anything like the one I played on my brand-spanking new copy of NCAA Football 08 for Xbox last night, then on September 15th, I'll be one happy camper. Almost as happy as I was last year when the boys in blue put an ole' fashioned hurtin' on the Irish just as I was walking down the isle. Yes, the football gods were gracious enough to give my wife and I the most unexpected of wedding gifts; a huge Michigan win in South Bend. Nothing sweeter.

However, wins like that one come very far and few between in a rivalry like this. Notre Dame is far too proud and Charlie Weis is far too good of a coach to allow that to happen again. Even though this match will be played within the friendly confines of the big house, something tells me it will be a tough one.

However, this game not being the first honest test for Michigan of f the season (see: Oregon), Michigan's fate will rest heavily on the performance of a week earlier. A win against Oregon will make this game that much bigger in terms of putting together an undefeated September. A loss to Oregon will make this game (and all of the rest actually) a must win. However, a loss to either school will not necessarily mean that Michigan is out of the title hunt. But the road will be that much more tougher.

What to watch for: I really like the Michigan defense in this game. The matchups are heavily in Michgan's favor. Notre Dame has a new QB. Which, given Brady Quinn's performance last year, might be a good thing. Lets face it, he can't do much worse. A young QB in a hostile environment is never usually a good thing. So unless this guy turns out to be a total stud, look for Michigan to really put on the pressure. However, also look for Notre Dame to try to establish a ground attack. That could be their greatest source of success.

Michigan will once again take the game and try and drag it out. Running Hart at least 25-30 times will not be that surprising...especially since about 3 DB's will have at least one eye on Manningham this year. So look for short dump offs and screens to RBs and tight ends.

Preduction: Michigan 24-14

Week 2: Oregon

When: September 8th, 3:30PM
Where: Ann Arbor, MI

Overview: After a not-so-worthy opponent in week 1, its time to start the march to New Orleans. Oregon will provide the wolverines with a very potent offense. They have a pretty balanced attack...one which was the #14 overall rushing offense last season. But thanks to graduation, players leaving, and a brand new offensive coordinator, things will be a little different this season.

For those Michigan fans who are still a little bitter about the 4-point loss in Eugene in 2003, this Oregon team is a far cry from this squad. Michigan is far more balanced, faster on defense, and lets not diminish home-field advantage. The big house is twice the size of Autzen Stadium. But the Ducks play in a tough conference, so don't expect too much shock on their part.

I'd break down the offensive output vs. different uniform color combinations that Oregon uses, but frankly, without knowing what combo they're going to use this year, there's no point. in 2005, they sported 9 different color combinations. But lets just say for the record that I actually like (some of) their uniforms. The classic white on white is a good look. But lets just hope they don't show up on the field with the awful yellow on yellow. I just don't think I can handle that.

What to watch for: Oregon actually has a surprisingly effective pass defense. Thanks to their speed, but what they have in speed, they lack in size and strength. Its like playing USC's 2nd string. Yes, I know, USC is great...blah blah blah. So look for Michigan to play its typical slowdown offense. Hart will get a ton of carries, but he'll also get his fair share of screen passes in the flats. Look for short routes by the receivers. It may be tough for Manningham to break one open down the sideline or across the middle. But Oregon is young, and playing on the road...so mistakes are sure to happen. The key for Michigan is to make them pay for those mistakes as often as possible.

Special teams will play a big factor in this game. This will be both teams' 2nd game, so the kinks should surely be gone by now. So look for play makers to step up here. I really like Arrington (hopefully he'll be around) or SaVoy to be bring punts back...I love the idea of #86 back there, but fear of injury could keep that from happening. It is imperative that we keep him healthy as a deep threat this season.

All in all, it will be a good game. Actually it could come down to being on of the best early-season non-conference games in all of college football this season. But...lets hope not.

Prediction: Michigan 37-21

Week 1: Appalachian State

No one is going to look back at this game as the catalyst towards a championship season. When Michigan had to add a 12th game to the schedule, this is the one they added. Call it what you will, its still a game, it still must be played, and we still must watch.

When: September 1st, 12:00PM
Where: Ann Arbor, MI
TV: Big Ten Network

Overview: Not too tough to figure out whats important in this game. Like all season openers, the keys will be fundamentals. Turnovers, special teams, tackling...the little things that drive coaches crazy will be emphasized in this matchup. And like all other Michigan teams, the running game will be the big measuring stick. Its doubtful that we'll see DeBord open up the playbook too much. The backups will likely see some action as well.

What to watch for: There's not going to be much mystery as to how this game will turn out. Michigan, as usual with early-season cakewalks, will jump out to an early 28 point lead or so going into the half, and then back off considerably in the 3rd quarter. Expect to see Hart get about 20 carries, Henne to get about 25 reps, and a lot of substitutions on both the offensive line and in the backfield. Jake Long will probably go through about 4 or 5 defensive ends before his day is done in the 3rd quarter.

It will be a very workman-like (word?) outing for the boys in blue. No frills, no fun, but at the very least it will end a dreadfully long off-season, and bring us into the 2007 season at 1-0. Tough to complain too much about that.

Prediction: Michigan, 42-7

My Blog...Now with 100% More Info!

And we're live!

The time has finally come for me to get off the proverbial blogging couch and start voicing my opinions. If anyone other than my new lovely bride of almost 10 months reads this blog, lets just say I'll be very, very impressed. Its not that I don't think there are legions of Michigan fans out there with nothing better to do than drool over my carefully thought-out and well-worded posts...but the main problem will be my inability to actively promote this blog.

So if you find yourself here, and still reading this...congratulations on getting this far.

This is not my first attempt at a blog, however. If you feel frisky, and I hope you do...feel free to click my link on the right-hand side of the page to "Project Outhouse". Thats my first blog. I did it with some good friends of mine. There's so much info packed into that site its scary. The problem is we've neglected it and the dust has begun the settle. Its Web 2.0 at it best, and then eventually at its worst. But worthy of a click.

Now that I have my shameless plug out of the way, lets get down to it.

51 days and counting. 51 days until the mighty Appalachian State Mountaineers (could they honestly be called anything else?) come to the big house. A brief tour of their football website and its easy to see that this game, just might be the biggest thing to ever happen the 6th largest university in North Carolina (and thats saying something!).

But seriously, how bad is it that on July 12th, even I can't wait for the mighty Mountaineers to come calling. Starting promptly as I woke up on January 2nd, I simply couldn't wait for this season to start. Two reasons: 1, put the last two losses out of my head forever. And 2, give me something to watch besides Tigers baseball on FSN with Rod and Mario. Okay, I'll give you Rod Allen, at least the guy has a drinking game named after him.

So as we wander our way through the doldrums of summer, lets begin the season the right way: with overwhelming speculation about how this year will be the year, Lloyd will will all the "big ones", we'll finally get the running game, passing game and special teams all on the same page, and of course we'll have a far superior defense than we did last year (um...okay, maybe 3 out of 4).

So, in case you've been under a rock, here's the rundown:

Sat., Sep. 1 Appalachian State Ann Arbor Noon BTN
Sat., Sep. 8 Oregon Ann Arbor 3:30 p.m. ABC
Sat., Sep. 15 Notre Dame Ann Arbor 3:30 p.m. ABC
Sat., Sep. 22 Penn State* Ann Arbor TBA TBA^
Sat., Sep. 29 Northwestern*
Evanston, Ill. TBA TBA^
Sat., Oct. 6 Eastern Michigan Ann Arbor TBA TBA^
Sat., Oct. 13 Purdue* Ann Arbor Noon TBA^
Sat., Oct. 20 Illinois*
Champaign, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CDT TBA^
Sat., Oct. 27 Minnesota* Ann Arbor TBA TBA^
Sat., Nov. 3 Michigan State*
East Lansing, Mich. TBA TBA^
Sat., Nov. 10 Wisconsin*
Madison, Wis. TBA TBA^
Sat., Nov. 17 Ohio State* Ann Arbor TBA TBA^

It seems the obvious thing that stands out are the games in bold...all but 4. We're going to come back to this in a later post...but it's worthy of a mention. Thats not a bad way to start out.

It looks like it'll be a week or so until I can make my way back on here to bring you my thoughts on the schedule and each opponent. Until then, some key dates to keep on the back burner:

July 18: Single-game tickets go on sale for App. State, EMU, Minnesota, and roads games at Northwestern and Illinois
August 1: Big Ten Football Coaches Media Luncheon
August 21: Marching Band practice (free and open to the public, if you're within arms reach of Ann Arbor, its worth a watch...and listen)
August 30: Launch of the Big Ten Network (much more on this catastrophe later, and no, my cable company IN MICHIGAN does not carry it)

Go Blue!